Ramsons: Allium ursinum


Main part of the plant which is used for food is leaf. It has been collected before or in the first phase of flowering, mainly in April. Leaves of A. ursinum is a common “wild” vegetable in Ukraine, Russia, and Caucasus and becoming increasingly popular in the Lithuania, Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. Fresh or boiled leaves are used to add taste to salads, soups, sauces and savoury dishes as a vegetable. Bulbs are used as a spice for some dishes, salads and meat. Flowers are rarely used for decoration.

The ramsons is considered a healthy food used in traditional medicine as an antihypertensive, antiatherosclerotic, antimicrobial, antidiarrhoeal and antiphlogistic agents. It is consumed fresh or cooked in different dishes. The leaves of A. ursinum are rich in flavonoids and vitamin C, showing a antioxidant, fungistatic, and cytotoxic activity.


Inflorescence of Allium ursinum. Photo by Birutė Karpavičienė
Allium ursinum. Photo by Birutė Karpavičienė
Allium ursinum in deciduous woodland, Lithuania. Photo by Birutė Karpavičienė


Allium ursinum is a bulbous, perennial plant, that stays in one place for more than 80 years. All parts of plant has a characteristic garlic-like smell and flavor. The bulb is narrow, formed from a leaf base. Leaves 1–2, bright green. The leaf blade elliptical 10–25 cm long and 2–7 cm wide with a petiole up to 20 cm long. The stem is 15–60 cm in height, triangular in cross-section. The inflorescence is an umbel of five to 35 white flowers, 16–20 mm in diameter and starts with blooming in a period April – June. It provides an excellent spring bee pasture with good nectar flow. Honeybees collect both nectar and pollen from morning to evening. A. ursinum reproduces mainly by seeds which mature in June – July. The plant reaches reproduction maturity at 4-5th year of vegetation.

A. ursinum is widespread across Western and Central Europe with a few scattered locations in Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Caucasus and the Nordic countries. It grows in species-rich deciduous woodlands with moist soils, where it can cover large areas as pure stands. It is considered to be an ancient woodland indicator species. In earlier centuries, this species was cultivated as a vegetable, medicinal and spice plant in Central and North Europe.


A. ursinum is listed in the Red Data Books of some European countries, e.g. Belarus, Denmark Finland, Lithuania, Latvia. Nevertheless, ramsons is collected by individual pickers even there.

Cultivation trials have been started in recent times. In Germany, Lithuania and mountainous regions of Caucasus it is sometimes transplanted into home gardens. However, the cultivation is not economic and some populations of A. ursinum suffer from harvesting pressure due to increasing demand. Moreover, the threat may be caused by the destruction of habitats. Flowers and ripening fruits of A. ursinum is effected by fungal diseases and frosts in clear cuttings areas and thinned forests, where seed production often fails.


Europeans most important ramsons producers are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Serbia, Switzerland, Romania, but there are still no data of production quantities and areas.


  1. Lithuania – meškinis česnakas, platenis, žalčio česnakas
  2. Latvia – laksis, meža loks, mežloks
  3. Serbia – sremuš





Dr. Birutė Karpavičienė; Nature Research Centre; birute.karpaviciene@botanika.lt